Are vintage aprons women's privilege?

By: Julia Bennet


At first sight, aprons are articles of clothing rather related to women, but men were surprisingly the first to wear them. They even had and still have symbolic meanings like those worn by freemasons during their rituals. Men aprons appeared in ancient times and only later entered women’s wardrobes. Their historical evolution was quite sinuous, with periods of real glory and others when they almost ceased to exist, with the exception of aprons used by some workers. There is a distinction to make between aprons used at work and those worn as a pure caprice of fashion. For those mainly interested in fashion, vintage aprons are available in places where antiques are selling.

Since old times, aprons have been used as simple coverings. The first men aprons we know were some little squares or rectangles made of linen cloth that workers used to tie around their waist. As fabric was precious for most people at that time, aprons were little. Fabric was woven at home, on narrow looms, and this made every scrap valuable.

Masonic aprons have emerged from aprons worn by operative masons in the middle ages. That operative apron was made from some animal’s skin, probably a sheep. The operative apron was large and it covered its wearer from his chest to the ankles. Hanged around the neck by means of a thong made of leather, the apron had other two thongs on its sides, which allowed the wearer to tie it around the waist.

Until the late 16th century, plain aprons were very common. After that date, aprons dedicated to women began to receive expensive decorations made of embroidery and lace. They were frequently present at royal courts in Europe.

The evolution transformed aprons from simple objects meant to hide the human body from intrusive eyes into complex objects made for people who were working with dangerous objects. Craftsmen working in such industries are still wearing protective aprons to prevent injuries provoked by perilous elements like fire or chemicals.

Men aprons were worn by professionals like welders, blacksmiths, or glassmakers, in order to protect them from hot or sharp objects. They were made from canvas, leather, or other thick materials and were worn especially by craftsmen who worked in places where damaging agents could affect their clothes or even provoke injuries. Such articles may be also found as vintage aprons.

As a quite different case, aprons worn by cookers are made from lighter materials. They protect the cooks from the hot liquids, mess, or sharp edges. Through centuries, aprons were also meant to absorb the mess of chores. Therefore, household servants, maids or cooks, were wearing them as parts of their uniforms. Aprons were a symbol of the status such people had, and also had to prevent their uniforms from getting dirty.

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Although men aprons seem to be less affected by fashion trends, a lot of people look for vintage aprons for men to be fashionable.

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